What is neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain can occur if your nervous system is not working correctly or is damaged.
You may experience pain from any area of the nervous system – the spinal cord, the peripheral nerves and the brain.
The spinal cord and the brain make up the body’s central nervous system.
Your peripheral nerves are those that are spread throughout the rest of your body and they are located in the organs, legs, arms, toes and fingers.
This condition affects the body through damaged nerve fibres sending the wrong signals to pain centres.
Nerve function may be altered at the site of the damaged nerve, as well as in areas of the central nervous system (central sensitisation).
What are the symptoms of neuropathic pain?
An individual affected by neuropathic pain may experience these signs and symptoms:
- A burning, sharp, throbbing or jabbing pain
- A gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your hands or feet, which can then spread into arms and legs
- An increased sensitivity to touch which can result in pain
- Pain when performing activities that would not usually cause pain, such as pain in the feet when weight is placed on them or when you put a blanket over them.
- An increased difficulty getting to sleep often accompanied by anxiety
- The feeling that you’re wearing socks or gloves when you’re not
- A loss of coordination and motor skills
- Having sudden falls during their day
- Weakness in their muscles
- In some cases, individuals may experience paralysis if their motor nerves are affected by the condition
Who is at risk of neuropathic pain?
Currently there are many ways to know what the source of the condition is as there are hundreds of diseases linked to neuropathic pain.
There are however some illnesses that have a proven connection, such as diabetes. People with diabetes are more at risk of neuropathic pain and account for approximately 30% of cases.
Other conditions linked to neuropathic pain include AIDS or HIV infection, Parkinson’s disease, Shingles, CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), stroke and other central nervous disorders. The condition can also be triggered by alcoholism, exposure to poisons as well as putting trauma or pressure on the nerve through injury or accidents such as car crashes or sporting injuries.
What are the treatments of neuropathic pain?
- Currently there are many treatment options for neuropathic pain. Many of these treatments can significantly reduce levels of pain, improve quality of life and get patients back to daily routines.
- The main forms of therapy for neuropathic pain are physical therapy, pain medication, antidepressants, psychological counselling and in some cases surgery. It’s best offered in a multidisciplinary pain clinic where all options are offered in a one stop clinic.
- Specific anti-neuropathic pain Medications are mostly aimed around suppressing the effects of the illness. The pain medication is used to reduce the levels of pain that the individual experiences and antidepressants can reduce the mental health effects of the condition. This in turn will aid in the pain as most forms of chronic pain are made worse by anxiety and depression.
- Advanced pain therapy options nerve blocks, radiofrequency denervations and spinal cord and DRG stimulation, brain stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation.
- It is important to note that surgery does not mean that the illness will be cured, and due to side effects of surgery it should only be performed when all non-surgical measures have failed for six months or more.